The first time Sam asked her who Katie was, she had just shrugged. She didn’t quite know how to explain it to Sam in the first place, and in the second – Katie was hers. Hers intimately, personally, inescapably. This ended when Sam found her, sprawled on the floor of her room, crying.
“There’s so much blood,” she’d said. “Why is there so much blood? Tell her to stop, Sam, please – she keeps cutting herself and spilling it on my sheets.”
Sam had looked at her funny, and Isabella had wanted to demand to know what he was thinking. Why didn’t he find Katie? Why didn’t he get her to stop? Katie was always making such a racket, always screaming, demanding, asking for food, for water, for something more – and always clawing at her throat, as if she knew something about Isabella that Isabella herself didn’t.
Sam got used to Katie eventually – as did Isabella. There was no shutting her up after all. She couldn’t help it – the constant screeching wouldn’t stop, and Isabella was not equipped to handle it.
“She used the knives again,” she told Sam one day. “There was so much blood.”
Sam looked at her, as her fingers tapped on the plastic table.
“So much blood,” she said quietly, contemplating the smears on her fingers, that left fingerprints everywhere.
She always dreamed of the first thing over and over again – it was hard to remember her sister, you see. So in her dreams, she’d appear over and over and over and over again. She didn’t know what point her sister was trying to make – but Katie never really had much subtlety that way. And the dream always started with a doorway – or a cliff, or an entrance.
And Isabella was always falling.
Until Katie appeared again, her face smiling, telling Isabella that she had done well, that everything was going to be alright.
Blood dripped from her eyes.
“How is… everything… today?” Sam asked her.
“She used a rope this time,” sighed Isabella. “She’s over there,” she added unnecessarily, waving in the background. Katie’s body swung from side to side, as it trying to prove a point.
“Isabella… do you remember anything about Katie?” asked Sam
Isabella frowned. “I remember – I remember Mum and Dad loved her,” she said slowly. “I remember she was always loud – always, always, always. She took my favourite Barbie when we were six, I remember. I think her name was Violetta.”
“Anything else?” prodded Sam.
“Why was she so loud?” asked Isabella helplessly. “She always wanted everything – everything!”
“It’s alright Isabella, come on,” said Sam, patting her hand.
“She smiled so much – all her teeth, you could see them all, always –”
Isabella buried herself into Sam’s chest. “You’ll stop her, won’t you?”
Sam’s hand was hesitant on her hair.
Isabella examined her nails. “It was a spanner this time,” she said.
“Yeah?” said Sam cautiously.
“I don’t know why she keeps doing it,” said Isabella, reexamining her nails.
“Isabella – you – do you –”
“What?” asked Isabella earnestly, looking at Sam’s worried face. Maybe something was wrong – maybe Mum and Dad weren’t well.
“Did Katie ever tell you why – why she does this to you?”
She remembered the doorways, the cliffsides that she was always falling over. The entries, the break ins, and then Katie’s smiling face, over and over, saying words that sounded all wrong. “She used to say that there’s a threshold – to becoming stars or fire. She said hers was limitless. She said mine was limitless.”
“For what?” asked Sam.
“Mine for her,” said Isabella quietly. “And her for more.”
Sam didn’t say anything.
“But I showed her –” said Isabella fiercely. “I showed her. I showed her. There are limits.”
Sam collected his coat, leaving the room.
“Will you be coming to visit your sister again?” asked one of the attendants.
“Probably,” she heard Sam say. “Next week maybe.”
She wondered why Sam always asked all these questions – she found it hard to remember whatever he asked her about. Whenever she tried hard enough, she remembered Katie’s face, blood pouring out – everywhere, everywhere, everywhere – and a knife in her hand.
She sometimes wondered which threshold she’d crossed simply by placing a limit on Katie.
Written by Tanvi Chowdhary
Image by Sanna Jain